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March 4, 2009 > Theater Review: Bad Seed

Theater Review: Bad Seed

By Julie Grabowski

Christine Penmark is mother to sweet eight-year-old Rhoda, a child who does everything well and is adored by all. She is never tardy to school or absent, "performs to perfection" and is always neat and charming with hugs and curtseys abounding. But when she loses the penmanship medal to Claude Daigle and the boy is later found drowned at a school picnic, Christine is troubled to find Rhoda completely unaffected, and horrified to learn that her daughter thought the tragic event exciting. She begins to suspect an evil in Rhoda, and searches her own past and parentage, fearing that she is responsible for passing on unspeakable deficiencies to her daughter. Christine unravels as horrible truths are discovered, and is driven to drastic measures to ensure the safety of her little girl and those around her.

"The Bad Seed" has been well received by audiences since its appearance in 1954 as a novel by William March. Nominated for the 1955 National Book Award for Fiction, it went on to be adapted for the stage by Maxwell Anderson enjoying a long and successful run on Broadway, and its 1956 film version received four Academy Award nominations. Stage 1's production, behind a trio of strong performances, delivers a solid and interesting story, though at times fails to fully engage, never quite reaching the sinister pitch of the material.

Kathy Blumenfeld is the very breath of life as the self-proclaimed "garrulous old hag" and "oversized analyst" Monica Breedlove. She commands the stage with confident ease and sweeps away any tedium with her presence. Michael Rodrigues provides the much needed creep factor with his skulking janitor Leroy, who is "smart and mean" and the only other person to suspect the evil in Rhoda. Rodrigues's taunting of the girl is wonderfully wicked, making you wonder more about what lurks inside Leroy than in Rhoda. Pamela Rosen is alternately heartbreaking and humorous as the grieving inebriated Mrs. Daigle, and is always a welcome sight. Sandy Sodos and Emma Thvedt round out the cast with admirable performances as mother and daughter.

The play is presented in the Black Box, a fifty-seat offshoot of the Newark Memorial High Theatre that in combination with the lemony walls and 50s dˇcor of the set feels a bit like being in the living room of a dollhouse. This contributes an eerie feel well suited to the content of the story. "The Bad Seed" is a compelling tale with a lot of potential, sure to be of interest to those drawn to the darker side of life.

Tickets are $25 for adults at the door, $22 for seniors and advanced purchase, $18 for groups of twelve or more, and $12 for high school students and under. To purchase tickets or for more information call (510) 791-0287 or visit www.stage1theatre.org.

The Bad Seed
February 20-March 14
Fridays and Saturdays
8 p.m.
Sundays
2:30 p.m.
Newark Memorial High School Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 791-0287
Tickets: $12-$25

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